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Last Updated: 2009/11/24
Summary of question
Can the soul, after death, become aware of the things that happen in this world?
What does it mean when people say, “The soul of a deceased person has awareness of what happens in this world”? How is it so? Is it through the angels?
Concise answer

It has been narrarated from the Holy Infallibles (Masumeen) that after death, the soul can in fact come back to this world and have awareness of the events that unfold here and learn of their relatives and close ones. The angels can also act as intermediaries and this has been emphasized through certain narrations.

It has been narrated through hadiths that:

1- “Indeed the mu’min will visit his family; he sees what pleases him [regarding his family], and the things that will cause him pain and displeasure will be hidden and shielded from him.”

2- “God will send an angel with him so that the angel shows him things that will cause him pleasure and happiness…”

Detailed Answer

In order for the answer to this question to be made clear, we have to consider a few different points:

1. The human being consists of two components: one is the soul and the other is the body; there is no way one can deny the fact that all people bear a soul. The soul is an immaterial essence that is alive, able, and free to choose and is also referred to as the intellective soul or the spirit[1]. The attachment of the soul to the body is one where the soul is independent of the body and is the entity that bears life at root; while it is attached to the body the body remains alive but at the moment of separation, the body loses its signs of life and bit by bit begins to disintegrate and decompose, although the soul continues to live afterwards.[2]

2. Intellectual investigations into life after death can only prove general issues such as the immortality of the soul or the necessity of resurrection, but the specific issues of life after death can only be understood by divine revelation and the words of the Infallibles (Masoomeen) (A).

3. From the verses of the Holy Quran and the traditions (hadiths) narrated to us we come to find that the souls of people can understand the happenings of this world after the deaths of their bodies.

As an example let us refer to several hadiths (traditions) below:

a) “Ishaq bin Ammar asked Imam Kadhim (A): Will the mu’min be able to visit his family after his death? The Imam (A) answered: “Indeed!” I asked: “How often?” He said: “This depends on their virtues; some will visit every day and some others will visit once every three days.”

Ishaq bin Ammar says: “In the middle of the Imam’s words I understood that he was saying: “The lowest of them [mu’mins] will visit every Friday”; I then asked: “During what hour?” He said: “At noontime or something near that time, Allah (swt) will send an angel to the person to show him things that will make him happy and cover and hide things that sadden him.”[3]

b) Imam Sadiq (A) has said: “Indeed the mu’min will visit his family; He will see what will make him pleased and the things that will make him sad will be hidden from him. Also, the Kafir will surely see his family; the things that displease him will be shown to him and that which pleases him will be hidden from him. Imam (A) said: “Some will visit [their families] every Friday and others will visit according to their deeds”.[4]

4- Since the angels are part of the cause and effect chain of this world and are the causes that sometimes Allah (swt) utilizes to get things done, it is not improbable that through the intermediation of angels, people will be able to return to this world and come to learn of the happenings and events that occur here, as has been stressed in some hadiths.

[1] When we speak of the relationship between the soul and body and the impacts each have on each other, the term “spirit” is used, and when we speak of spiritual things that take place apart from the body, the term “soul” is used.

[2] See: Al-Mizan (translation), vol. 19, pg. 344.

[3] Biharul-Anwar, vol. 6, pg. 268.

[4] Kuleini, Kafi, vol. 3, pg. 230.

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